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UK-led Beagle 2 Lander found on Mars

16 January 2015

The UK-led Beagle 2 Mars Lander, thought lost on Mars since 2003, has been found partially deployed on the surface of the planet, ending the mystery of what happened to the mission more than a decade ago.

Images taken by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have identified clear evidence for the lander and convincing evidence for key entry and descent components on the surface of Mars within the expected landing area of Isidis Planitia (an impact basin close to the equator).

Professor Colin Pillinger, a fellow of the Royal Society, was Principal Investigator for the Beagle 2 Mars Lander. Sadly Professor Pillinger passed away in May 2014.

Dr Judith Pillinger who was heavily involved in the Beagle 2 project, in particular its publicity, and was married to Professor Colin Pillinger said:

“On behalf of Colin, I would like to thank everyone who joined with him to make Beagle 2 happen so many years ago and in particular the NASA MRO HiRISE team and colleagues who have continued to search for the lander. For me and his family, of course, seeing the images from Mars brings about mixed emotions. An immense sense of pride is inevitably tinged with great sadness that Colin is not able to share the findings with us.

"Colin was always fond of a football analogy. No doubt he would have compared Beagle 2 landing on Mars, but being unable to communicate, to having ‘hit the crossbar’ rather than missing the goal completely. Beagle 2 was born out of Colin’s quest for scientific knowledge. Had he known the team came so close to scoring he would certainly have been campaigning to ‘tap in the rebound’ with Beagle 3 and continue experiments to answer questions about life on Mars.”

The Royal Society launched the Colin Pillinger International Exchanges Award in December 2014 in commemoration of the scientific contribution of Professor Pillinger. The award aims to stimulate new collaborations between leading scientists in the UK and overseas. Researchers taking part in the scheme will be supported in visiting overseas scientists, sparking scientific collaborations with researchers from across the globe.

As well as being Principal Investigator for the Beagle 2 Mars Lander, Professor Pillinger was formerly the Head of Planetary and Space Sciences, Open University. His research career started with analysis of the Apollo lunar samples.

The Colin Pillinger International Exchanges Award was made possible with thanks to family and friends of Colin Pillinger.

Download further information about the scheme.